The untold truth of Melissa Villasenor
Melissa Villaseñor is one of a kind on Saturday Night Live in more ways than one. The comedian is known for her expansive and varied collection of impressions, capturing the essence of everyone from Owen Wilson and Sarah Silverman to Hillary Clinton and Björk. Even when she’s just being Melissa, Villaseñor’s voice is recognizable from a mile away — a voice she has previously compared to Kermit the Frog, per NPR.
Villaseñor’s voice has earned her acclaim not just on SNL, but in animated forms, as well. Over the course of her career, she has lent her talents to American Dad, Family Guy, and Ralph Breaks the Internet, in addition to live-action spots on Barry and Crashing. On top of her vocal talents, Villaseñor made history as the first Latina to be promoted to the main cast of Saturday Night Live, per The Washington Post. Her casting, which occurred alongside the hiring of the show’s first Latino writer, was celebrated as a win for diversity on the show. While her inclusion made headlines, there is much more you don’t know about Villaseñor.
Mellisa Villaseñor spent years in stand-up
Like many Saturday Night Live stars, Melissa Villaseñor got her start doing stand-up comedy. In February 2020, she told the Daily Dot that she discovered her love of comedy at a young age. “I did my high school talent show with a few impressions, and that was when I felt it,” she said. “It went so great that I realized, this is what I am supposed to be doing, at 15 years old.”
At 15, Villaseñor attended a comedy camp at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. The comedian spent years working on her craft, eventually being selected to perform at the Just for Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival, one of North America’s preeminent comedy festivals. Then, her big break came in 2011, when she made it to the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent.
A video of her initial audition quickly made the rounds on social media, with the young comedian rattling off impressions of Barbara Walters, Natalie Portman, Miley Cyrus, Kathy Griffin, and even a singing Christina Aguilera. Despite the attention she garnered from her time on the talent competition, it took her another five years before she successfully made it onto SNL. In the meantime, she continued touring the country performing standup, performing at colleges and continuing to develop her voice.
Melissa Villaseñor came close to 'Saturday Night Live' once before
Before America’s Got Talent brought her a new level of fame, Melissa Villaseñor almost made it onto Saturday Night Live. Villaseñor shared the story during a chat on The Gray Escape with Natalie Gray podcast, explaining that she actually auditioned for the show back in 2009 when she was just 21 years old. Her first audition went really well, and she really impressed series creator Lorne Michaels so much that she was invited back for a second audition.
Villaseñor admitted that her callback audition went much more poorly than her first. “I learned nine new impressions and then I had all this help from other comics,” she recalled. “They wrote the jokes … I didn’t feel like any of it was funny. It wasn’t coming from me.” Needless to say, her original shot at the show didn’t pan out. Despite the original outcome, Villaseñor said that she learned an important lesson from the experience. “I’m never gonna ever just fully take what someone’s writing for me … I’m gonna take it and make it my own.”
About those tweets…
Once Melissa Villaseñor was cast on Saturday Night Live, it wasn’t long before she became the subject of controversy. After the official SNL Twitter account announced that Villaseñor would be joining their ranks, a few users noticed something odd — Villaseñor had locked her account. Buzzfeed was there to document the sequence of events that unfolded.
Within days of locking her account, Villaseñor deleted thousands of tweets. Some of them, which contained material that was considered racist, were captured before their deletion. Neither SNL nor Villaseñor immediately commented on the situation, though she did finally address it in 2018.
Speaking with NPR, she said that those tweets were an attempt to be “edgy,” adding that she was glad she had deleted them. “I’m flawed like everyone else, and yeah, I just wanted to make sure I was perfect,” she said of the situation. In hindsight, Villaseñor was probably wise to delete them, especially seeing as how SNL dropped comedian Shane Gillis in 2019 after evidence of him using slurs surfaced and he failed to officially apologize.
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